Pakistan doctor was not jailed for helping CIA, new court paper claims

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A PAKISTANI doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden was imprisoned for aiding militants and not for his links to the CIA, according to a court document released yesterday.

A court in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border jailed Shakil Afridi for 33 years last week. Pakistani officials said the decision was based on treason charges for aiding the CIA in its hunt for the al-Qaeda chief.

But the judgment document made available to the media yesterday says Afridi was jailed because of his close ties to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam.

While the document said there was evidence that Afridi “has been shown acting with other foreign intelligence agencies”, it noted the court in Khyber had no jurisdiction to act on that.

But the court recommended that the evidence may be produced before an appropriate court for further proceedings.

The Afridi case has further strained ties between the United States and Pakistan, already damaged by a series of events, including a Nato cross-border air attack last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

In Washington, government sources said the US is exerting strenuous efforts to win Afridi’s release from jail.

Mansur Mehsud, director for research at Islamabad’s Fata Research Centre, said: “This appears to be an effort to patch things up with the United States, while also satisfying the people of Pakistan that Afridi has been punished.

“The mindset is being managed, confusion created, about what exactly he has done.”